The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) today filed a brief outlining the many flaws in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s reasoning for not disclosing noncitizen voter registration records to the public (PILF v. Torres et. al. 1:18-cv-00463).
“The Commonwealth’s actions have caused justified public concern among voters, elected officials, and anyone who supports transparent government,” PILF President and General Counsel J. Christian Adams said. “Pennsylvania is concealing records of serious problems with election administration while attempting to assure the electorate that all admitted procedural flaws inviting noncitizens to vote have been addressed. Our election system should not function this way and these records deserve public exposure.”
Below is a summary of responses made to the Commonwealth’s recent Motion to Dismiss the suit.
The Commonwealth cannot discriminate between which categories of cancelled voters it wishes to disclose when federal law is clear on the matter.Defendant considers maintenance records accessible only when a registrant is dead or relocated. The PILF filing counters, “the Secretary’s interpretation produces an absurd result in that it would permit election officials to operate in secret in an area of constitutional importance. Congress made all list maintenance records subject to public inspection precisely so that the general public can hold election officials accountable for their actions. The Secretary dodges accountability when he shields these records from public view.”
The Commonwealth cannot rely on an already defeated claim that voter records should be protected like driver records. The PaSOS publicly reported it is comparing PennDOT records against its own to determine which should be cancelled for citizenship eligibility reasons. The Defendant’s attempt conceal this maintenance by citing the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act ignores pre-existing federal inspection rights of voting records in turn. Today’s brief adds, “Accepting the Secretary’s argument would prohibit the release of any information contained in a voter registration application submitted through a PennDOT office, including the name of any registered voter. It would thus fully eradicate the public inspection rights enacted by the NVRA, and the public nature of voter registration lists.” The PILF previously defeated this defense in Virginia litigation.
The Commonwealth injures the public when it denies federal inspection rights. There is no question that a properly submitted inspection request was denied by Pennsylvania. Supreme Court and recent Appellate Court precedent clearly finds that a requester seeking public documents suffers an “injury in fact” when it is denied and therefore enjoys standing to bring a lawsuit to compel disclosure.
The case continues in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg Division. The case number is 1:18-cv-00463.